Green tourism expands influence from Aberdeen to Zimbabwe
The world’s largest accreditation body for the tourism industry pioneered in Scotland, is to launch a pilot project in Zimbabwe.
Working in partnership with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and Environment Africa the international organisation is helping develop minimum Green Tourism standards for integration into a National Quality Assurance Scheme in Zimbabwe.
Perth-based Green Tourism is all about sustainability, quality and equality. The travel and leisure industry plays an important role in the economy of Zimbabwe, leading all other sectors.
By helping businesses cut costs, reduce waste, increase energy efficiency and conserve natural resources the country can build a stronger more competitive tourism sector to benefit the economy of local communities and help reduce poverty.
The internationally renowned 5-Star Victoria Falls Hotel, overlooking one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, and the prestigious Victoria Falls Safari Lodge are among the first of 20 hospitality companies to join the pioneering project.
Sophie Zirabwe, Executive Director of Planning, Research and Development for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, said that after looking at a number of programmes around the world they took the decision to work with Green Tourism because it provided the best path to establishing a sustainable tourism model.
She said: “We want to be pioneers of sustainable tourism in Africa and we believe that with the help of Green Tourism we will be able to come up with the right-guidelines to show the world we are serious about conservation, the environment and combating climate change.”
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is excited about the programme and believes the destination will benefit greatly from the expertise and experience of Environment Africa and Green Tourism UK.
The CEO for Environment Africa, Charlene Hewat said: “The Green Tourism initiative for Zimbabwe is practical, straightforward and the potential positive impact on biodiversity, communities and the country as a whole is enormous.
“The pilot project is building on the Good Housekeeping programmes that Environment Africa have already carried out in Victoria Falls and the Green Tourism Africa programme will now be linked internationally to the world’s largest accreditation body for tourism in the world.
“This is exciting for Zimbabwe and I hope that as many companies as possible will take this leap forward as we link into the Minister of Tourism’s 2020 vision, Tourism and Biodiversity.”
Every member of the pilot will receive an on-site assessment of all areas of their business, once every two years, from a qualified and experienced environmental assessor. They will also get help to identify cost savings and marketing opportunities along with practical advice on improving the visitor experience.
Green Tourism was the first initiative of its kind to be independently validated by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT) on behalf of VisitEngland, VisitWales and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. It is also endorsed by VisitScotland and Failte Ireland.
With more than 2,500 members in UK, Ireland, Canada and Italy it has an influence that reaches from North America to New Zealand, having helped launch green tourism quality assurance systems in Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy and Ireland.
Started by directors Jon Proctor and Andrea Nicholas in 1997 Green Tourism is a not-for-profit organisation that provides consumers with an independent guide to hotels, bed & breakfasts, tourist attractions and visitor centres which are actively trying to help the environment.
Members get Bronze, Silver or Gold grades based on how sustainable they are through their fair treatment of people and the planet, including use of energy saving lights and heating, serving local foodstuffs, promoting conservation and around 120 other measures.
A study by the independent think-tank TotemTourism into the ethics and expertise of 158 schemes used by businesses around the world to boost their sustainability credentials identified Green Tourism as the Best of the Best.
Many of the world’s top hotels and visitor attractions, including the Ritz, the Savoy, London Zoo, Historic Scotland and Blenheim Palace are members of Green Tourism, along with leading international hotel chains such as Rezidor Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Q hotels, Jurys Inns and numerous independent self caterers and bed and breakfasts.
“We have developed a credible, robust and flexible approach specially created to cater for the particular needs and goals of businesses. We will adapt this for Zimbabwe and we believe it will really help to make a difference,” said Andrea Nicholas.
“We are acutely aware that one size does not fit all. We will adapt our criteria to reflect the practicalities of running a sustainable tourism business in Africa, compared to somewhere like London or Scotland, without compromising on the effectiveness of the criteria.
“We truly believe tourism can be a mechanism for change for the benefit of people, places and the planet.”
Zimbabwe, which has a very strong tourism brand: ‘Zimbabwe – a world of wonders’, currently has 2 per cent of the Tourism market share in Africa while South Africa has 29 per cent and Mauritius 5 per cent.
Some of the key challenges facing tourism in Africa is poor trans-Africa air connectivity, wildlife poaching, poor visa requirements, poor image and an unsustainable tourism sector. Zimbabwe has a very strong tourism brand, ‘Zimbabwe – a world of wonders’.
At a recent Wildlife Conference in Harare, the Minister of Tourism, Walter Mzembi, described tourism as providing the quickest prospect for turning Zimbabwe around and creating a $5 billion Tourism economy by 2020.